Real Farm Bill Stories: Greenmarket, GrowNYC
by Cheryl Huber
October 3, 2011
Greenmarket, a program of GrowNYC, was founded in 1976 with a two-fold mission, to promote regional agriculture by providing small family farms the opportunity to sell their locally grown products directly to consumers and to ensure that all New York City residents have access to the freshest, most nutritious, locally grown food the region has to offer.
What began over three decades ago with 12 farmers in a parking lot on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan has now grown to become the largest and most diverse outdoor urban farmers market network in the country, now with more than 50 markets, over 230 family farms and fishers participating, and over 30,000 acres of farmland protected from development.
Greenmarket received a grant through the USDA/AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) in 2009, enabling the expansion of its food access work. Through the grant funding, Greenmarket made healthy, locally-grown food more accessible and affordable to lower-income neighborhoods by increasing the number of farmers’ markets who accept SNAP (Food Stamps) Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBT) and by assuming operations of the Wholesale Farmers Market (WFM), located in the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. The funding available through FMPP was critical in reaching these goals.
By accepting EBT payments at Greenmarkets, GrowNYC provides all shoppers with access to fresh, local, nutritious food. In 2010, EBT cards could be used at 40 Greenmarkets, up from only three markets in 2005. EBT sales in 2010 exceeded $500,000, and in some markets, daily EBT sales reached close to $6,000. EBT has become a critical supplement to farmers who depend on these markets for survival, as some farmers reported that EBT sales comprise 25% to 50% of their total income. In the two years of the grant, Greenmarket expanded EBT to six additional markets including; Ft Washington, Greenpoint, and Elmhurst Hospital.
The Wholesale Greenmarket offers over 100 local and regional farm-fresh products including fruits, vegetables, herbs, plants, and flowers at competitive wholesale prices and quantities. Many products at the Wholesale Greenmarket are harvested less than 24 hours before being sold. The Greenmarket farmers grow their own produce and sell direct to buyers at Hunts Point. Coming straight from the farm each morning, their products travel a very short distance ensuring premium quality and greater food safety and traceability.
The Wholesale Greenmarket facilitates sales between wholesale buyers, such as small grocers, institutions, restaurants, and distributors, and small and medium scale growers from New York and adjacent states. Assuming operations of the Wholesale Greenmarket allowed Greenmarket to create a mechanism through which bodegas and other retail food outlets that service lower-income neighborhoods could source locally-grown fruits and vegetables at wholesale quantities and prices.
Greenmarket also created a management structure for the wholesale market and recruited farmers, created publicity materials to promote the market, began building a strong customer base, sent regular e-mail updates regarding the market and products, and advertised the market on our website and through a dedicated newsletter. The grant also allowed Greenmarket to hold a Wholesale Success workshop, connecting farmers and buyers, to talk about needs and values.
Fourth generation farmer, Jack Hoeffner, of Hoeffner Farms in Montgomery, New York, began selling in the lower Hudson Valley Farmers Market when he was 14 years old. He is one of the original Greenmarket Farmers. Jack said about attending the Wholesale Greenmarket, “After 55 years, I still get excited about coming into New York City and selling to my customers. My customers are family to me.”
Cheryl Huber is the Assistant Director of Greenmarket, a program of GrowNYC.
This article is part of the Real Farm Bill Stories Series.